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Opioid-induced hyperalgesia from alfentanil
  1. Farzana Virani1,2,
  2. Mary Miller1,2 and
  3. Jeffrey Gilmour3
  1. 1 Palliative Medicine, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford, UK
  2. 2 Palliative Medicine, Sir Michael Sobell House Hospice, Oxford, UK
  3. 3 General Surgery, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Farzana Virani, Palliative Medicine, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford OX3 7JX, UK; farzana.virani{at}


There remains uncertainty regarding the existence, mechanism and frequency of opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH). Literature to date has been dominated by the phenanthrene opioids, fentanyl and remifentanil. This case draws attention to alfentanil as an additional contributor. In this report, suspected OIH and subsequent reduction in opioid dose led to a dramatic diminution of pain. Omission of such a differential may have led to detrimental consequences. Underlying dementia heightened his vulnerability and illustrates the necessity of clinical expertise in the diagnosis and management of OIH, particularly when diagnostic criteria are lacking. The case demonstrates the need to include OIH as a plausible differential diagnosis in escalating pain where opioid tolerance, disease progression and non-opioid sensitive pain are excluded.

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  • Contributors FV acquired the clinical information and wrote the manuscript. MM was the palliative medicine consultant involved in the clinical management of this patient and reviewed the manuscript. JG was the consultant general surgeon responsible for this patient's clinical care.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Next of kin consent obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.